The cooling system in your car plays several important roles, with its main purpose being to remove engine heat and maintain the right operating temperature. Due to the vital role it performs, many engine problems and failures are caused by improperly maintained cooling systems. And taking into account the Australian climate, it should come as no surprise that ongoing cooling system maintenance is a must.
Here we look at two of the most common causes of cooling system problems — stray current electrolysis and broken plastic tanks — and what can be done to fix or avoid them.
Stray Current Electrolysis
Stray current electrolysis can destroy an aluminium radiator in as little as three weeks and is generally caused by faulty earth leads or earth leads that haven’t been reconnected correctly. I’ve personally seen a number of radiators that have only lasted from a month to six months due to stray current electrolysis after maintenance has been carried out on the cooling system.
What are the signs of stray current electrolysis?
There are a few signs that indicate your radiator is affected by stray current electrolysis. If the radiator tubes are leaking from black dotted tubes, sometimes in multiple places, that’s a pretty good indication of a stray leak caused by electrolysis. Additionally, after removing the plastic tank from an alloy radiator and inspecting the tubes, you may notice that the tops of the tubes have been eaten away.
If you’re concerned about the condition of your radiator and whether it’s safe to use, Radiators Plus can perform an electrolysis test. Anything below 0.05 millivolts is considered acceptable, however, if stray current is present above this level, you’ll need a qualified auto electrician to identify the problem.
As the coolant or inhibitor will carry stray current, it’s important to thoroughly flush the inhibitor if it’s found in the cooling system. The battery may need to be disconnected for a short time and the system filled with fresh clean tap water or distilled water and tested again. In most cases, once the system has been properly flushed the voltage will drop, but if it doesn’t, an auto electrician will need to identify the problem.
Broken plastic tanks
Broken plastic tanks are a common problem but are easily repaired or replaced in most cases. As the radiator ages, the plastic often becomes brittle, outlet pipes can crack completely off and the rubber connection hose sustains wear and tear.
If there’s a problem with the tank, we can advise you on whether it can be repaired or replaced when the radiator is power flushed and cleaned out, as once the tank is removed we can flush the radiator and identify blockages. Depending on the age of the radiator or vehicle, it may be better to replace it with a new radiator than repair it. We’re happy to inspect your radiator and advise you on your options.
Flushing the cooling system
One of the many reasons why it’s so important to have your vehicle serviced on a scheduled basis is to thoroughly flush the cooling system and remove contaminants. When flushing the cooling system, we flush the entire system, including the heater, overflow bottle and overflow hose. To ensure all contaminants have been removed, we use compressed air to blow out as much water as possible from the engine block before filling with new inhibitor. For extremely dirty systems, we may need to do a chemical flush.
Having your car’s cooling flushed system by a radiator specialist is important because care must be taken to ensure that the new coolant doesn’t mix with old coolant. This can lead to a calcium buildup in the tubes which blocks the radiator, or worse, causes a chemical reaction that results in a radiator leak. When you have your car’s radiator flushed at Radiators Plus, you can rest assured that it will be flushed and cleaned professionally.
Radiators Plus are Launceston’s radiator specialists and operate a purpose-built radiator shop in South Launceston. To speak with a member of the team, call (03) 6334 8722.